Still to this day, the biggest mystery that my mind, soul and spirit struggles with is why, having been so loved as a child, did I decide to stop eating at the innocent age of 11? What was I needing, seeking, hiding from, fearful of? For a month I was able to pull off eating an apple, banana, and bits of dinner each day, until I dwindled down to 70 lbs. The day I was discovered, I was shopping in Marshall Field's with mom, trying on some clothes, when she walked in on me in the dressing room. She about lost it, seeing my frail, little body, and from there brought me straight to the Lake Forest Hospital, where I heard the word "anorexia" for the first time in my life. They told me all the horrible things that could happen to me: heart failure, kidney failure, etc. So I went home that day and ate like I'd never eaten before. However, those threats didn't stick, and I soon went back into starvation mode. From then on, I became obsessed with food and exercise, calories and fat grams, skin and bones. People talked, all scared for my life, and I devoured the attention. I took up running and found that I was really good at it. So those two things - being skinny and running - became my identity. Depression and anxiety set in, isolation resulted. Eventually OCD entered my world, as well. The endless scouring of my hands and countertops calmed me down, momentarily. I became phobic of other people touching me, even brushing up against me in the school hallways. Each utensil I used counted as 10 calories. A dab of toothpaste counted as 100. Year after year this continued. Therapy didn't help. My period never came. I was essentially preventing myself from growing up. What was I so afraid of?
During the summer right before my senior year of high school, we all thought it would be a healthy idea for me to spend some time away in Colorado with my aunt and uncle. Even though my mom and I had remained best friends over the years, we had a huge blow out right before I left. I don't remember what it was about, but I can assure you that it had to do with the eating disorder. What didn't?
While away, I managed to eat as little as possible and run as much as possible during the day, when everyone was off to work and school. "ED," as I called the eating disorder, packed up and came with me. There was no chance of him staying behind or even backing off on my vacation. But unfortunately for us, our vacation got cut short. As I entered my aunt and uncle's house after a long, hard run one afternoon, the phone rang and so I picked it up. It was mom. It was so good to hear her voice. I had really been missing her, and still had a few weeks left of my time away.... so I thought. There was a quivering in her voice. And then she shared with me what I had known would happen since my earliest years, since my obsession with her began, at birth. She was dying of brain cancer. I wasn't surprised. Somehow I had already known. I think I had always known that I would lose her. Maybe that was why I never left her side growing up. I knew that my time with her would be cut short. That night, after just a few weeks away, I flew home to be with my mother; although, she was no longer there. The brain tumor replaced my mother with a woman whom none of us knew. But that woman was only around for 90 days. She couldn't have left soon enough. I wanted nothing to do with this other woman.
So at the age of 17, I was on my own. Well, ED and I were on our own. I had my dad, but since he and my mom had divorced when I was 8, he had his own life going on with my stepmom and their two little ones. Don't get me wrong.... my dad and I were always close, as well. But he couldn't be there like I needed him to be there. I also had my stepdad... but he didn't know how to nurture a 17 year old woman. And my older sister, well, she had to finish up college. So after a year, I moved to Colorado and decided to attempt a new chapter in my so-called life. I entered college at CSU and made fabulous friends, but ED never left my side. Year after year, he stayed. I found Jesus, and hoped that maybe He'd replace ED. Nope. ED was a persistent and stubborn presence. Well, is.
I am now 30 years old, married, and mother of a 10 month old daughter.... and yes, ED is still in my life. I hate him. He is my worst enemy. But I have no idea how to make him go. I am getting stronger, however. I am learning to love and accept myself. I am learning to forgive myself. And as the mother of a girl - a beautiful, precious, special, little girl - I have a huge responsibility. She has to witness me loving and accepting myself. She has to see me enjoy food, smile at myself in the mirror, go about my day with no makeup on my pale skin. I don't fully believe that my mother is responsible for ED, but I sure don't want to take the chance of being responsible for him entering my daughter's life.
This essay isn't over yet. I have a whole new chapter to write about, just as soon as ED has left for good, and exciting new adventures begin.